Burning even the kitchen sink
ECO Don Damrath was patrolling rural parts of Onondaga County and heard a complaint come over the county 911 dispatch radio about a large structure fire in the town of Elbridge. Before Damrath arrived on the scene, a local police officer advised that the fire was permitted and that the controlled burn was being used by local fire departments as a training exercise. Knowing these controlled fires are occasionally conducted in violation of Environmental Conservation Law, Damrath continued to investigate after consulting with Region 7 Air Resources Technician Thomas Gragg. As Damrath arrived at the fire, it was obvious from the smell and smoke that materials other than un-adulterated wood was being burned. An inspection of the smoldering pile and interview with the landowner attending the fire confirmed what Damrath suspected. Not only were two structures torched (only one may be burned at a time), but the old farmhouse was not properly stripped of its contents before the burn. Partially burned insulation, coated wires, painted metals, plastics, and even the kitchen sink were clearly visible in the hot embers. Damrath issued the homeowner a misdemeanor summons for the illegal burn, and had the local fire department return to extinguish the fire. Region 7's Air Resources Division will likely issue a consent order against the fire department that supervised the illegal burn.
3 for 1 vehicle stop
While on patrol in the town of Homer, ECO Kristina Markey observed a vehicle transporting an uncovered load of solid waste heading in the direction of the Cortland County Landfill. Markey conducted a vehicle stop of at the landfill entrance and while she was obtaining the driver’s information, two additional vehicles, also transporting uncovered loads, pulled into line at the weigh station. Markey issued tickets to each of the three drivers for transporting uncovered loads of solid waste.
ECO Stan Winnick and Tom Gragg of DEC’s Division of Air patrolled to an excavating company’s gravel mine on Ellistown Road in Barton. Upon entering the mine they observed several violations. Gragg contacted DEC Mineral Resources in Syracuse to arrange for further inspection of the mine. An inspection was performed on the mine by program personnel, where multiple violations were found, including mining 20 feet below the permitted depth, mining outside permitted limits, failing to perform reclamation, failing to install boundary markers, failing to retain topsoil on site and the construction of a storm water collection system that can discharge outside of the mine. DEC Mineral Resources is attempting to determine the penalties for this site. The mining company is a known offender and has been found in violation at another mining site in New York, resulting in thousands of dollars in fines.
Illegal disposal near a highway
Malloy responded to a request by the Ontario County Sheriff’s Department regarding the illegal disposal of solid waste at a location in the town of Geneva. A large amount of concrete was dumped on the right-of-way along State Route 14 on property owned by the New York State Department of Transportation. Upon investigating, it was determined that an individual was removing concrete from the floor of a barn and taking the material across the road to fill in a ditch along the road. He was attempting to build an access to waterfront property along Seneca Lake. DOT was contacted regarding the violation. A work permit would have been required to do any work on the right-of-way. Officer Malloy issued a ticket for unlawful disposal of solid waste. DOT was setting up a work permit with the subject for removal of the material.
Tired of garbage
Acting on information received from the New York State Police, ECO Joshua Wolgast initiated an investigation into an individual who was allegedly dumping thousands of waste tires onto the property of local businesses. The suspect approached local garages, offering to remove waste tires from their location at prices well below the industry standard. He would then gain access to other properties through various business agreements, then deposit and abandon 3,000-4,000 used waste tires onto their property. The suspect, who had several previous dealings with the DEC, also had an outstanding bench warrant from the department for unpaid tickets related to the hauling of waste tires. He was stopped by state police driving an unregistered pickup truck packed with over 50 used waste tires and was arrested on his outstanding warrant. Wolgast and ECO Eoin Snowdon transported the suspect to Seneca Falls Court and on to Seneca County Jail. The following week Wolgast obtained an arrest warrant for illegal disposal of solid waste, criminal mischief, and other related charges and lodged the warrant with Seneca County, where he was awaiting release. Several other charges are still pending at other locations where the suspect conducted similar activities.
Construction barge sinking (Steuben County)
ECO Ed Stull was contacted by the owner of R&R Docks, who reported that his construction barge had sunk in Keuka Lake in about 30 feet of water. Stull immediately responded to the scene, which was about four miles north of Hammondsport on the west side of the lake, and also contacted the DEC Region 8 spills unit and the Hammondsport Fire Department which has an emergency water response team. R&R Docks’ work crew had been working on a dock repair and the employees had left for the day. Neighbors reported the wind had picked up and shifted to the north, which caused a large sheet of ice (the full width of the lake) to move through the location, damaging docks, shorelines and breaking apart and overturning the barge. An excavator, piping, and tools were all swept off the barge during its descent. Oil booms were put in place since the barge’s fuel tank contained approximately 30 gallons of diesel fuel, some of which was leaking. The recovery effort was hindered by the lack of ground equipment access due to a 30-foot cliff between West Lake Road and the lake. A large-scale recovery effort was made over the next three days including the fire department, a large wrecker, a dive/salvage team, a mechanic to recover the excavator once pulled to shore, DEC spills and law enforcement personnel. The barge was re-floated on scene, the excavator was loaded onto the repaired barge and both were then floated to Hammondsport for further repair. The excavator did not leak fluids and it appeared all diesel fuel leaked from the barge was recovered in booms and pads.
ECO Erik Dalecki was called by a Schuyler County Sheriff Deputy for assistance with a burning complaint. The fire department had been dispatched to put out a fire in the town of Trumansburg. After about 15 minutes of knocking on the door, an interview was finally conducted with the tenant. He admitted to burning the garbage that was put out by the fire department. He was issued a ticket for open burning of garbage.
Over the limit (Onondaga/Oswego counties)
Onondaga and Oswego County ECOs began hearing complaints regarding fishermen taking more than their limit of panfish on Oneida Lake. ECOs Richard Head and Will Burnell began coordinated efforts between sectors to attempt to locate and apprehend the alleged violators. The officers caught three fishermen with over their 50-fish limit, with a total of 166 sunfish and bluegills. The anglers were taking advantage of the last of the safe ice on South Bay. The three fishermen said they thought they were within their limit – until the fish were counted. Tickets were issued and the cases were pending in Cicero Town Court.
ECO Paul Blanton responded to the Hi-Tor Wildlife Management Area to address a complaint of stolen traps. Blanton met with the complainant, who said two 1¾-inch leghold traps that were lawfully set the previous day had been removed and presumed stolen. Blanton canvassed the local residents, attempted to retrace footprints in the snow and met with local law enforcement. All indications led to a 16-year-old who lived in the area with a history of youthful offender larceny charges. With assistance from his mother, the traps were located and the youth admitted to the violation. Charges were pending in local criminal court and the traps were to be returned to their rightful owner.
ECO Ozzie Eisenberg responded to a complaint of a physical domestic dispute in the town of Newfield after a call from Tompkins County dispatch. In an effort to render assistance to state police and Tompkins County Sheriff’s Department, Officer Eisenberg was the first officer on the scene. As he pulled into the parking lot of the apartment complex, he observed a distraught female wielding a large butcher knife. At Eisenberg’s direction to drop the knife, the woman complied, and he quickly secured the weapon and attempted to calm the highly agitated woman, who was claiming that a man was trying to kill her. A responding trooper arrived and detained the woman as Eisenberg proceeded into the apartment complex to speak with the other party involved. He made contact with the male half of the dispute, who refused to identify himself. A second responding trooper and two sheriff’s deputies arrived. The man was ultimately taken into custody and identified. He was arrested on multiple charges stemming from the domestic incident and was also arrested on a warrant from New York State Parole.
Wanted for drug smuggling
ECO Gary Wilson was flagged down by a tractor-trailer operator who had broken down on State Route 19 in the town of LeRoy. Apparently, the below zero wind chill on this day had a negative effect on his rig’s air brake system since he neglected to regularly drain the water from it. The driver had originated his trip from Oklahoma City and was transporting a car-carrier to New York to pick up wrecks. The carrier had three late model wrecks on it while roadside. The driver requested assistance in finding a local auto parts store to purchase airline antifreeze. After providing him with the requested assistance, the officer performed a compliance check. The driver’s information showed he was a Mexican citizen with a Mexican federal driver’s license. The compliance check revealed some minor vehicle and traffic violations, and it was determined that the driver was wanted in Texas for drug smuggling. He had been previously arrested for smuggling drugs within wrecks he was transporting. U.S. Border Patrol and New York State Police responded to assist. A Border Patrol K9 performed a sweep, where his dog indicated the presence of drugs on all three wrecks. Unfortunately, no drugs were found as the illicit products had already been offloaded. The subject was taken into custody for extradition back to Texas.